A week in Chicago with a Vegetarian: the report
Since I got such great information when I asked for help finding restaurants for me and my mother, who has a host of dietary requirements and quirks,I thought I would post reviews of the places we went, in return.
Vivo: the youngest, hippest feeling place we went. Neighborhood's just this side of dodgy but there were several restaurants around so not uncomfortable for two petite women on foot. The wait staff were dressed up for Halloween, and spent almost the entire time in character, which made for a lot of fun but seriously decreased the quality of the service. On the plus side, to make up for taking so long they comped our wine and then gave us free Sambuca while we waited for dessert. The food was good (the bread was excellent). We both had pastas which were fresh and tasty, although mine at least (black linguine with crabmeat sauce) could have been less oily. For dessert, an apple cake with cinnamon gelato was delicious, a chocolate layer cake with vanilla gelato nice and light but not outstanding.
Francesca's on Taylor: Loved the casual, neighborhoody atmosphere. More tasty, fresh pasta for my mother: I had a delicious tilapia.
Kevin: Much more serious dining than the other two. The only wrong step was the amuse-bouche, a vegetable wonton that had a tasty filling but overly thick and chewy wrapper. I had a superb halibut and the best dessert of the trip, a pumpkin cream and red rice napoleon that almost brought tears to my eyes. My mother's vegetarian plate looked fantastic and provided me with world class entertainment as she poked at what appeared to be an avocado roll, asked me what it was, and when I told her gasped in horror and whispered "Is this...a *Japanese* restaurant??" (She then proceeded to remove the avocado --"too fatty"--, the seaweed -- "too healthy"--, and only eat the rice.) The clientele was the most businessy of all the restaurants we went to.
Trattoria 10: If Vivo was the hipsters, Francesca's the neighborhood, and Kevin the business people, Trattoria 10 was the theater crowd. A nice, if somewhat cavernous space, and above average but not heart-stopping pasta. I had the asparagus ravioli. As often seems to be the case with ravioli, it was a smallish portion of food, but certainly tasty.
Printer's Row: both my mother and I voted this the all-around best restaurant of the trip. Their roasted vegetables on orzo fit my mother's needs perfectly, and I had venison that just melted in my mouth. The waitress steered us toward an excellent wine choice. And the key lime pie we split was perfectly tart and refreshing. My only regret was that we didn't have room to try a second dessert.
Crofton-on=Wells: the most intimate of the restaurants we went to. Again, there was a vegetarian option on the menu that was perfect for my mother (once we talked her down from the fact that it was labeled as "Ginger Miso Broth" and pointed out it was really roasted veggies on noodles) and the roasted chicken with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes was just what I was craving after a long, cold day. And the desserts we split, an apple tart and the Valronha chocolate cake which was very close to a souffle, were amazing.
Overall impressions of Chicago dining: excellent service throughout (except Vivo, which seemed to be due solely to holiday high spirits), all the way down to the support staffs, not a lot of attitude, and a real respect for fresh ingredients and good bread.